August 25th, 2012 Posted in Anglican Communion
Chris Sugden ‘Evangelicals Now’ September 2012
The last 12 months has seen a significant development in the Anglican Communion. National Anglican Churches (Provinces is the technical term) have begun to hold significant large gatherings of all Anglicans in their area along with international guests from other parts of the Communion.
This is part of the “celebration” level of church gatherings which can be classed as “cell” – or home groups, “congregation” – what most of us experience on Sundays and “celebration” – everyone getting together in an area or region. Churches in Oxford have done this for the last seven years with “Love Oxford” when many churches shut their doors on one Sunday and all meet together in a central outdoor location. English dioceses have occasionally done this by taking over a football stadium. Gatherings such as Word Alive, Bible by the Beach, Spring Harvest, New Wine and Keswick are also such celebrations.
The Church of Nigeria under its new Archbishop Nicholas Okoh led the way in November 2011 with a celebration in the National Christian Centre, a national cathedral in Nigeria’s capital Abuja for all Christian denominations built on the other side of an inner ring road from the national Mosque. The “cathedral” holds 5000 people and was filled for a week in November 2011 for the Divine Commonwealth Conference (DIVCCON) of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican). Morning plenary addresses were followed by seminars and workshops in all parts of the building and an evening celebration. The conference issued a communiqué which among other matters took the British Prime Minister to task for tying western aid to the imposition of western ideas on human rights and sexuality.
International guests came from Ghana, USA, England and Kenya. The Archbishop of Kenya, Eliud Wabukala returned from DIVCCON and immediately arranged a similar gathering in All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi, Kenya in April 2011 which was attended by 2000 people, with guests and speakers from Nigeria and other parts of the Anglican Communion.
At the end of July Anglican Churches in Asia held a similar if smaller gathering of 100 Anglican leaders in Bangkok Thailand, facilitated by the Province of South East Asia and sponsored by the Global South network. The conference issued two communiqués, one from the Primates from Asia, Africa and Latin America indicating that they had written to the Crown Nomination Commission with their input on the appointment of the new Archbishop of Canterbury.
The conference reported that, with delegations from the Global South as well as orthodox Anglican churches in the West, it explored the trends in mission in the 21st century amidst the post-1989 global landscape, and evaluated the effectiveness of Anglicans in missions. The challenges of the unfinished work of mission were intensively discussed in four tracks, namely Economic Empowerment, Emerging Servant Leaders, Theological Resourcing and Inter-faith Relations, as well as various regional networking sessions. http://www.globalsouthanglican.org/index.php/blog/comments/a_communique_from_the_global_south_conference_on_the_decade_of_mission_and_
In Nigeria DIVCCON 2012 will take place from November 5-9 and will be addressed by Bishop Michael Nazir Ali and Dr Patrick Sookhdeo among others.
In April 2013 North American Anglicans will host the New Wineskins for Global Mission Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. http://www.facebook.com/NewWineskinsforGlobalMission
Such regionalization is also occurring among other groups. The Episcopal Church of the United States is becoming a focus for a certain expression of faith and finding allies in Canada, New Zealand, Wales, parts of the Church of England and South Africa.
Over the next period of time we will probably see these regional networks of Anglicans develop and flourish as centres of Anglican Communion life. There will be considerable interchange among some networks, and less between some networks and others. There will certainly be the need to work out the implications of these regional expressions of the Anglican Communion particularly for identifying what actually unites us and what can sunder us apart. The Anglican Communion will no longer be a global organization with a western hub.
Canon Chris. Sugden, the author of this report, is an Evangelical priest with no parish in the Church of England. He has a seat on General Synod, which makes him more powerful in some ways than any normal parish priest within the Church. His opposition to liberalisation within the Church of England, and other Churches of the Anglican Communion – such as TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, which have sanctioned the ordination of Gays and Same-Sex Blessings – brings him into the ‘sola-scriptura’ classification, which, in turn, makes him an advocate for the more conservative Provinces – like Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda in terms of Anti-Gay propaganda – within the world-wide Anglican Communion. Interestingly, Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, another conservative prelate, is due to speak at the next such meeting: In Nigeria DIVCCON 2012, which will take place from November 5-9
In his report, Mr. Sugden concentrates on the activities of ultra-conservative provincial gatherings dedicated to the objectives of GAFCON, which has distanced itself from the main-line provinces of the Communion, declaring Gays as ‘person-non-grata’ in their churches – to the extent where both Uganda and Nigeria have already aligned themselves with their national governments’ agenda of punitive sanctions against homosexuals – and anyone who ‘harbours’ them – such a family and friends.
Sugden clearly indicates that there is already a distinction in the Communion between the conservative and the more liberal Provinces – a factor that has only lately been exacerbated by the Anti-Gay rhetoric of his own particular partisan stance.
This is a sad commentary on the state of schismatic division in the Anglican Communion of Churches, once known as the ‘Bridge Church’, held together by ‘Bonds of Affection’.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand